Outside the United States Supreme Court on Monday, a staff member from Earthrights handed Esther Kiobel a page to read. “It’s her story,” he said to a small crowd of dedicated activists holding “#shameonshell” signs. Ms. Kiobel began to read, but soon put the paper down and started talking.
“In an executive meeting, they were trying to get my husband to help get rid of Ken,” she said, speaking of Ken Saro-Wiwa, the environmental activist who led a campaign against Shell’s operations in the Niger Delta, and who was executed by the Abacha government in 1995, together with Esther’s husband Barinem and seven others.
“I was myself charged. I was locked up twice. At night sometimes I go to sleep but then wake up and write what comes out of my head. I was stripped naked. Locked up twice.”
Members of the Ogoni community outside of the Supreme Court, February 28, 2012. Esther Kiobel, center. (Photo by Erica Razook)
On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Kiobel vs. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co., a corporate accountability case that could have far-reaching implications for future efforts by survivors of human rights abuses committed in other countries to sue those responsible in U.S courts. The case is close to my heart, but its outcome is one that all human rights activists should be invested in.
Earlier this week, in the course of sorting through years of accumulated documents in preparation for our impending office move, I found the four overstuffed binders I created over a decade ago while researching cases for Amnesty’s 2002 report, United States of America: A Safe Haven for Torturers. The report examined the U.S. government’s failure to fulfill its obligation to investigate and prosecute individuals found in the U.S. who are accused of torture committed in other countries, and to ensure that survivors can obtain reparation in U.S. courts.
It’s complicated, claimed Shell on their Facebook page today in response to the barrage of messages Amnesty activists have been leaving them on Facebook, Twitter and via email demanding they own up, clean up and pay up their mess in the Niger Delta.
But nothing is complicated about the fact that Shell has reaped billions from its oil extractions in the Niger Delta while multiple oil spills there have devastated local communities. And that they’re once again failing to take responsibility for their actions and attempting to shift the blame. Read their full Facebook response:
If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you probably already know about the devastation oil spills has brought communities in the Niger Delta and Shell Oil’s continuing resistance to take full responsibility.
Now, new data obtained by Amnesty International and the Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development (CEHRD) bring shocking new facts to light. Shell dramatically under-estimated the damage of a 2008 spill that resulted in tens of thousands of barrels of oil polluting the land and creek surrounding Bodo, a Niger Delta town of some 69,000 people.
The spills, that gushed for weeks before being stopped, have devastated the lives of tens of thousands of people, destroying livelihoods, undermining access to food and clean water and putting health at risk.
Shell has reaped billions from its oil extractions in the Niger Delta. Meanwhile, multiple oil spills there have scarred local communities.
It’s so bad that the fish local people catch and the water they drink are foully contaminated by oil pollution – destroying lives and livelihoods.
Despite this devastation, Shell has yet to take full responsibly of its spills and fully compensate victims. When Shell holds its Annual General Meeting (AGM) this May, Amnesty activists will have delivered thousands of petitions in an unsparing public message to CEO Peter Voser and Shell shareholders.
In preparation for this delivery, we’re launching a week of action around Earth Day to remind Shell of their responsibility to own up, pay up and clean up the Niger Delta. Help us publicly Shame shell into cleaning up their mess:
Activists and survivors of the 1984 Bhopal gas disaster demonstrate. (STRDEL/AFP/Getty Images)
Since we last told you about Dow Chemical’s controversial Olympic sponsorship, things seem to have only gotten worse for Dow Chemical – from a public relations perspective anyway. Along with Dow Chemical’s horribly insensitive comments, the increased media attention has only revealed additional ethically troubling business practices.
By Erica Razook, Amnesty’s Business and Human Rights Group
Members of the Ogoni community outside of the Supreme Court, February 28, 2012. Esther Kiobel, center.
Esther Kiobel is a person.
The bright sunlight that washed the steps of the US Supreme Court on Tuesday did not compete with her radiance, the resolve of a widow, a survivor. Outside the court, her eyes searched unquestionably and steadfastly for justice.
In January 1995, when she visited her husband Barinem in a Nigerian prison to bring him some food, she was stripped, beaten and thrown into a cell herself. In November that year, Barinem was executed alongside eight other activists from the Ogoni region of Nigeria, provoking widespread international condemnation of the country’s military rulers.
Vedanta, a UK-based corporation that mostly operates in India, has a big PR problem of its own making. For example, it has been implicated in creating a toxic red mud pond that threatens the lives and livelihoods of thousands of tribal people in the eastern Indian state of Orissa.
You would think that Vedanta should do what’s right and take steps to ensure that the environment and livelihood of the neighboring villages are protected. Vedanta might have taken steps to apologize, compensate and clean up the mess that they’ve already made in those communities.
In recent weeks, human rights and environmental activists have celebrated a court ruling rejecting a massive expansion of the Vedanta Mining Company’s hazardous alumina refinery and toxic red mud pond located in India’s eastern state of Orissa.
However, peaceful protesters continue to face police violence at the site, and 47 villagers have been jailed on false charges, signaling that the saga of Vedanta’s Lanjigarh refinery is not yet over.
Meredith Alexander is quitting the Commission for a Sustainable London 2012. It describes itself as an independent body which “monitors and assures the sustainability of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.”
“I feel I was part of a lobby which legitimized Dow’s claims that it had no responsibility for Bhopal…This is an iconic case. It’s one of the worst abuses of human rights in my generation and I just could not stand idly by.”